CORRUPTION in local authorities is escalating with illegal sales of land and stands dominating shady deals that council officials engage in, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission 2021 annual report shows.
At the top of the list of corrupt local authorities was the Jacob Mafume led Harare City Council, followed by local authorities in Mashonaland East, Bulawayo and Midlands provinces. Corruption in the Harare City Council alone has seen top officials former Mayor Hebert Gomba, and former town clerk Hosiah Chisango being dragged before the courts.
Service delivery in most towns and cities under opposition control for the past two decades has vastly declined while corruption has taken root. Harare, which was once dubbed the Sunshine City, now resembles a huge dump site as rubbish heaps go for months uncollected, while water supplies in most suburbs are erratic.
According to the ZACC report, a total of 1 501 complaints of suspected corruption were filed nationwide in various sectors, a 32 percent increase from the previous year, of which 1 354 were corruption-related while 147 were non-corruption matters and unsubstantiated complaints. Further categorising these complaints, Zacc noted that of the corruption related complaints received during the year under review, a total of 711 reports were against public officials.
“Of the 711 complaints received against public officials, 348 were against public officials in local authorities, public entities and parastatals while 151 complaints were against public officials at government ministry level,” the report said.
“Most of the reports against officials from local authorities were reported in Harare (93), Mashonaland East (30), Bulawayo (18), Midlands (16). On analysis, most of the allegations against officials from the local authorities relate to the illegal sale of land or residential stands. These corrupt tendencies were worsened by the emergence of land barons.”
Going forward, Zacc said it would focus more on improving integrity, accountability and transparency in local authorities. Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa described opposition councillors as opportunists without an affinity to improve the quality of life of residents, but instead abuse their positions to enrich themselves.
The government is stepping in wherever possible to restore sanity in local authorities, with a recent intervention being the taking up of payments due to Geogenix BV in the multi-million-dollar waste management plant at the Pomona dump site, which will help Harare better manage its waste. Meanwhile, Zacc said it had surpassed its 2021 target of referring 180 completed dockets to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), managing to send 195.
The 195 referred dockets resulted in 261 individuals and 9 companies being charged with various corruption offences. “From the cases submitted to the NPA, there were seven convictions realised, five cases were withdrawn before plea whilst several cases were still at different stages of trial,” read part of the report.
“The commission noted the challenges in the definition of a public officer for the charge of Criminal Abuse of Duty as employees of parastatals and State-Owned Enterprises such as Air Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission & Distribution Corporation, Allied Timbers that have now been privatised were not classified as public officers by the courts.” — New Ziana